Cynical? Why it Doubles Your Risk of This Disease!

By on May 29, 2014
You hear it time and time again: Stay positive. But hardly anything lightens up your sour mood; after all, managing a busy family, a work life, or getting through school doesn’t put anybody in a good mood.

But perhaps this will motivate you to turn that frown upside down. A new study from the journal Neurology says that people who are cynical–that is, people who have a deep mistrust of others–are more likely to develop dementia later in life.

Previous studies linked cynical behavior to a shorter life span, though researchers weren’t sure why–but perhaps this could explain it.

“There have been previous studies that showed that people who were cynical were more likely to die earlier and have other poor health outcomes, but no one that we could tell ever looked at dementia,” says Anna-Maija Tolppanen, a professor from the University of Eastern Finland who co-wrote the study. “We have seen some studies that show people who are more open and optimistic have a lower risk for dementia so we thought this was a good question to ask.”

The Study

Recruiting 1,449 people in their 70s, researchers wanted to see if cynicism put them at a higher or lower risk of dementia, a risk factor not yet examined before. To do so, they had the participants take a test to determine if they had dementia–and then separately measured their level of cynicism. The cynicism test specifically asked participants if they agreed with certain statements deemed to be cynical, such as “it is safer to trust nobody” and “I think most people would lie to get ahead.”

They then tallied up the results to see who was the most cynical, comparing it to the rates of dementia in the group.

As it turned out, cynicism was a big risk factor dementia–more than doubling their risk for the disease.

“Over time, people with highly cynical hostility do worse health wise,” says Dr. Hilary Tindle, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Pittsburgh. “I can tell you from my clinical perspective from treating patients, I am absolutely certain that psychological attitudes can lead people down a road to poor health, because I see it every day when I talk to patients.”

To add more fuel to the fire, other research shows that cynical people are more likely to engage in unhealthy behaviors–such as avoiding exercise, smoking, and distrusting medical advice.

Bottom line: Having a bad attitude just isn’t worth it.

“The bottom line is that a high degree of anger/hostility/cynicism is not good for health,” says Tindle.

What You Should Do

Can’t kick your sour mood? To temporarily cheer yourself up, try meditation, eating a delicious meal, or better yet, watching something that makes you happy.

Readers: What do you do to cheer yourself up?

Cynical? Why it Raises Your Risk of
Persistent Cynicism Linked to
Being a Cynic Linked to Higher Risk of Developing

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